Website redesigns don’t come around frequently, and one is finally on the horizon! What steps should an organization take to get the most out of this important opportunity? Take a look at the tips below for a successful redesign.
Establish redesign goals and set success benchmarks. Before the redesign kicks off, define your goals and set benchmarks to measure success. Is the goal to increase website hits by enabling resident self-service? Or, to reduce calls and walk-in traffic for selected services? Set goals, document existing metrics, and be ready to measure future success.
Review existing user data. When preparing for a website redesign, be sure to review website analytics. Look at page hits to see what content is being accessed, and which pages aren’t getting many views. Review how visitors are entering and exiting the website, and how long they are staying. The terms site users are searching for can also highlight content that is hard to find or understand. This useful data will help prioritize redesign efforts by understanding how users are interacting with current website content.
Invite organizational feedback. Have a kick-off meeting with internal stakeholders (customer service, city/county manager’s office, department representatives, etc.) and invite them to give candid website feedback. Organizational staff, especially those who are customer-facing, will have useful insights to contribute – such as what’s confusing for customers, what they are getting questions or complaints about, and more. This feedback is crucial to designing a website that serves your community well.
Conduct user testing. Invite internal and external stakeholders to participate in user experience testing and give feedback about site navigation, content, and ease of use. Have them complete tasks to see first-hand how information is being accessed and where users are getting stuck and use that knowledge to improve website content and navigation. Stakeholders could include community members, internal staff, volunteers, or local business owners, to name a few.
Design with the end user in mind. Ultimately, it’s important to make the website work for users, many of whom don’t have the same level of government knowledge or understanding as internal staff. Although it’s tempting to write content and design navigation based on how it makes sense to internal government teams, be sure to keep end-user needs in mind and structure the website accordingly. Take steps to ensure that current accessibility standards are met so all users have equal website access.
Simplify, simplify, simplify. Simplifying the website is one of the most important moves an organization can make. Government processes, services, and language can often be confusing for members of the public. To improve efficiency and ease of use, simplify page content, use clear language, avoid acronyms, and reduce the amount of text used on each page. Breaking up page content by using bullets, buttons, lists, or other visual cues makes content easier to skim and understand.
Reduce your page count. In the same way that too much content on a web page can confuse and frustrate website visitors, an overwhelming number of pages on a website can make a site difficult to navigate. Did you know that, on average, just 20% of a website’s pages drive 80% of site traffic? On most government websites, that leaves a lot of extra information that isn’t being frequently accessed. Use site analytics to determine what pages may not be needed and reduce the page count where possible. This not only makes a website easier for users to navigate, but it frees up content management staff time as well.
Streamline website navigation. Residents may not understand how government is organized, which can make it difficult to find information on the website. Review and reorganize website content by how users might access information, rather than by department or function. For example, information could be geared toward residents, visitors, or local businesses. Website statistics (entry and exit pages) and search terms can help inform this process, and it’s a great idea to invite community members to give feedback through a survey or focus group.
Digitize services and forms. When possible, replace static PDFs with user-friendly digital forms that can easily be submitted online. This will improve and streamline the customer experience for residents and reduce manual input work for staff.
Enhance the mobile experience. With so many constituents using mobile devices to access services, it’s important to provide a mobile-responsive website. Design with mobile users in mind to ensure that the overall design translates well to different device types.
Publicize! Once the redesigned website is ready to launch, be sure to let the community know. Use all available communication resources to spread the word and encourage residents to check out the new site. Since great websites are never truly done, provide an avenue for users to give feedback so the team can keep improving.
Evaluate and share success. After the new website launches, set a regular cadence of evaluating and measuring success. Review the goals set at the beginning of the redesign and pull data to see how the metrics have improved following the website launch. Is the website seeing more hits? Are residents able to self-serve, reducing calls and walk-in traffic? Document the changing metrics so down the road, it’s easy to see how far the organization has come! And be sure to share website success stories with organizational leadership, residents, and the overall community!
About the Author Following a 25-year career in local government communications, Elise Penington joined Granicus in 2022 as the Product Marketing Manager for Granicus Website Solutions. Elise is excited to be on the Granicus team and to play a part in helping government entities elevate their communication resources and efforts.